Pollen allergy and asthma affect between 15-40% of the European population and as such are some of the most common chronic diseases in the region. Related direct and indirect health costs have been estimated to be between €50-150 billion per year. Air pollution and extreme weather can further exacerbate pollen allergy and it is believed that, together with other environmental elements, these factors have played a role in the increasing prevalence of pollen allergy in Europe over the past decades.
Practical mitigation and adaptation measures are based on pollen observations. These data are used by physicians for diagnosis, treatment, clinical studies, and education. They are also used for empirical and numerical pollen forecasts, which in turn aid allergy sufferers to effectively plan their activities and medication intake. Furthermore, long-term pollen data are useful for phenological studies and monitoring of invasive species.
"Serving as a Proof-of-Concept for a European automatic pollen monitoring network using high temporal-resolution real-time measurements."
At present, most pollen monitoring networks are based on manual observations which suffer from poor time resolution and long delays in data availability. However, recent technological developments provide the possibility to make automatic pollen observations that are revolutionising the information that can be made available to end-users. Such timely information, and the enhanced forecasts this enables, will vastly improve the treatment and lives of allergy sufferers.
The AutoPollen programme seeks to take full advantage of the large potential for progress that automatic pollen observations provide. It brings together a consortium from across Europe with the multidisciplinary expertise needed to address the challenges along the entire information chain – from the actual observation through to the final end-user defined product. The programme is particularly innovative in its cooperation and standardisation from-the-start approach. It also favours convergence with the aerosol and air quality monitoring communities, which should lead to improved service provision and additional savings.
The programme aims to:
– Define the main standards of automatic pollen monitoring (methods, sites, data format, quality assessment and control, etc.)
– Demonstrate the feasibility of an automatic European pollen monitoring network by integrating developing and planned projects.
– Deliver information and recommendations to members for the establishment of automatic pollen networks and the development of related products based on real-time pollen data.
– Actively engage with stakeholders to ensure end-products are designed with their needs as priority.
– Provide a space to share multidisciplinary expertise to ensure synergy and collaboration.
– Explore the way to standardisation and the possible extension of the activity to the WMO.
The AutoPollen Programme is coordinated by MeteoSwiss, started in January 2018 and will run until the end of 2022. Four Working Groups focus on the main topics of interest: Techniques, Quality, Processing, and Products. The leads of each working group together form the AutoPollen Expert Team.
AutoPollen includes a wide range of participants, from EUMETNET members to universities, research institutes, and patient organisations, reflecting the diverse landscape of institutes involved in pollen monitoring across Europe:
ARSO, Slovenia – CHMI, Czech Republic – DHMZ, Croatia – DWD, Germany – FMI, Finland – HNMS, Greece – IMGW-PIB, Poland – Met Eireann, Ireland – MeteoLux, Luxemburg – MeteoSwiss, Switzerland – ZAMG, Austria – AERONET, Turkey – ATMO, France – Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, Germany – Biosense Institute Research, Serbia – European Aerobiology Society – European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Association (EFA) –National Pirogov Memorial Medical University, Ukraine – Red Española de Aerobiología (REA), Spain – RNSA, France – Sciensano, Belgium – Siauliai University, Lithuania – Swedish Natural History Museum, Sweden– University of Évora, Portugal – University of Latvia, Latvia – University of Worcester, UK – ZAUM – Zentrum for Allergie und Umwelt Medezin, Germany
Furthermore, the programme collaborates with several European-level projects and organisations, including: the CAMS-23 project, the COST Action ADOPT (New Approaches in Detection of Pathogens and Aeroallergens – CA18226), and the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
Current automatic pollen monitoring activities
There are several ongoing projects and activities related to automatic pollen monitoring across Europe. This includes:
– The Bavarian e-PIN platform, the world’s first fully automatic pollen monitoring network with public access to 3-hourly observations.
– The Serbian-Croatian RealForAll project
– The automatisation of the Swiss pollen monitoring network
– The Irish POMMEL project
– The Lithaunian-Finnish PASYFO project
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